FARM & FOOD PROGRAM HELPS TEENS EXCEL
How did your teenagers spend their summer?
I met some teens who worked on Hudson Valley farms, made their own kale pesto and body scrubs, and then sold their creations at a local farmer’s market!
NORTHEAST COMMUNITY CENTER’S (NECC) FARM & FOOD PROGRAM
Teens in the Farm and Food Education Program work each summer at the Millerton Farmers' Market, help out on area farms, and run their own entrepreneurial business, creating farm-made products to sell. “The interns love the cooking demonstrations they host at the market. They are tasked with choosing a recipe, knowing what produce will be available each week and then discussing their ideas with participating farmers,” said Ivana Powers, Development & Event Coordinator for NECC.
“We’ve had some real adventures together at the market. The teens saw me stifle screams when I sliced off the tip of my finger. I also recently got stung 3 times by a massive wasp, and sunk into a humongous mud puddle all the way up to my thighs,” said Powers.
Funded by Duchess County, student interns are paid $9 an hour, and learn a wide variety of work skills. They get to see first-hand how important farming is to the local economy and the benefits of locally grown food.
“There are many skills involved in the process of making the cooking demos happen, and the interns will move forward with a strong foundation in the principles of marketing, sales, budgeting and customer service,” said Powers. “The teens also give back to their community. The produce they grow and harvest at the Webutuck School Garden is used in the Summer Lunch Box program which provides breakfast and lunch to low-income children,” said Jenny Hansell, Executive Director of NECC.
The program operates under the umbrella of The Community Partnership with Schools and Businesses (CPSB) and employs 10 high school age interns who run their own farm stand and sell their own line of products including kale pesto, jams, herbed soaps and chapsticks.
“This summer the interns named their company DEM VEGGIES. They added a body scrub to their product line and even designed their own label. They started a little friendly competition with each other on whose jam label was the best. They asked customers to choose their favorite label and the winner then had bragging rights among the group,” said Betsey McCall, Farm & Food Program & Teen Program Manager.
The program also incorporates food justice activities and coordinates efforts with the local Fresh Food Pantry, which distributes local produce, eggs and milk to area pantries in the northeastern part of Duchess County.
The teens have an action-packed week which includes tending to the 40-bed raised garden at the Webutuck School, harvesting food for the Lunch Box Program, working in the fields at area farms, and attending field trips to the Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm which has been teaching healthy cooking skills to young people and their families for over ten years.
Their week culminates on Saturday when they peddle their goods at the Millerton Farmer’s Market. “At the beginning of the summer, the teens refuse to try certain vegetables such as arugula, fennel, or red cabbage, but as soon as they start cooking with them, they are excited to eat what they have made. Their final creations are then available for a taste test to visitors at the market,” said Powers.
Audrey has been a Food Program intern for the past three summers. She helped to prepare and serve over 5,000 meals to children in Millerton and Amenia. Audrey was recently accepted into the Culinary Institute of America.
"Looking towards my future as a CIA student, I think back to the three years that I spent my summers working with the Summer Food Program. I am grateful for the inspiration and tools the program gave me to excel and achieve my dreams,” said Audrey.
Three other past interns graduated from college and returned to the Hudson Valley to join the staff at NECC. They now work full time with the Farm and Food Program, Millerton Farmer’s Market and the Jobs Program. “I love watching the discoveries the teens make every summer. They learn how hard it is to work on a farm and how delicious fresh vegetables really taste. Most importantly, they learn how they can do so much more than they ever thought they could. They step outside of their comfort zone, and they develop confidence,” said Hansell.
COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP WITH SCHOOLS AND BUSINESS (CPSB)
CPSB is an internship and work skills training program for students ages 14 through 19. The program is a partnership among the Northeast Community Center, Webutuck School District, and area businesses.
Since 2003, CPSB has placed more than 300 students in internships with local employers. Dick Hermans, owner of Ooblong Books in Millerton said, “This program is good for us and good for the kids. They learn that they have to show up on time and take the job seriously. I’ve had 6 interns over the years and it’s been a pleasure.” CPSB helps teens get the kind of jobs that lead to real careers. The pay is minimum wage, but the experience is worth its weight in gold.
The business partners make an important contribution to the local economy by helping to train the future workforce. All wages are paid by the CPSB so there is no cost to the area businesses. In return for the free labor, businesses promise to offer meaningful work and to assign the intern a mentor. Mentors teach interns workplace rules and regulations and the specific tasks required to do the job well. They also help them establish good working relationships with co-workers and how to resolve problems in positive way. The mentoring relationship builds the intern's confidence and pride in doing a great job.
“Our program has developed a portfolio of job descriptions which are shared with teens so that they can find a position that matches their interests. I had a teen who thought he wanted to be a vet, so we placed him with the Millerton Veterinary Practice, and another girl loved cosmetology so she was placed at a local hair salon,” said McCall. “I love to watch the interns go off to college and follow their dreams, and it’s amazing how many return to the Hudson Valley to work after graduation.”
Visit: www.neccmillerton.org for additional information.